Mark Dalton: Owner/Operator In for ‘ripair’

by Edo van Belkom

Even though Mark Dalton left BC Place soon after the police arrived, he still spent the rest of the day with the RCMP, writing and signing statements so that proper charges could be laid against the crooked shipper – Bradley J. Proctor – and the rest of the people involved with the insurance scam.

“Now you’re sure you can make it back out here for the trial, if it goes that far?” asked Const. Rob Quentin, the officer he’d been dealing with all along. “If you don’t show up, the crown prosecutor won’t have as strong a case.”

“You have my statement,” said Mark.

“Yes, and that’s a big help, but it’s not as good for leverage as the threat of you testifying at trial. If I have your assurance you’ll be here, their lawyers might even try and cut a deal today.”

Mark wasn’t too keen on promising he’d be anywhere at a specific date in time. What if some cash cow of a load bound for Mexico got hooked up to his truck the week he was supposed to be in Vancouver for the trial? He’d have to pass it up, just to tell a jury what he’d already told the police. And even at that, Proctor seemed like the kind of guy who would have a tricky lawyer in his back pocket, the kind that could beat long-distance phone charges if he wanted.

But then again, if he did show up in court, he would be getting a bad shipper out of the business – a guy who wanted a hard-working owner/operator to take the fall for his failed business venture. That alone should have been enough to make Mark want to be in the courtroom, not only to see it happen, but to help make it so.

“Will you put me up in a hotel?” he asked. He had already decided to cooperate fully with the police, but he knew that for the next few minutes he held all the cards and might as well play his hand.

“Sure,” said Quentin. “As many as nights as we need you.”

“Meals too?”

“Meals too.”

“Okay, then,” said Mark. “Just give me a few weeks’ notice.”

Outside the police station, Dalton walked slowly across the wet asphalt of the parking lot toward his rig. He wondered where he’d be headed next. He was hoping for someplace warm where he could get a bit of sun. California maybe. That would be sweet.

Mark climbed up into his rig and started it up. Then he dialed up his dispatcher, Bud, while the Peterbilt’s engine idled.

“Yeah,” came the gruff voice over the phone.

“It’s Mark, Mark Dalton.” Even though he was the only “Mark” that Bud dispatched, the way Bud answered the phone always gave Mark the feeling that he didn’t know exactly who was calling.

“I know who you are,” said Bud.

“And you know why I’m calling.”

“You want a load would be my guess.”

Mark sighed in frustration. “I’m in Vancouver.”

“I know where you are,” barked Bud. “Just give me a minute, will ya.”

Mark shook his head. Every call to Bud was an adventure, and not the kind of adventures Mark enjoyed. Every word he said was the wrong one, and every attempt at making a little joke always fell flat.

“All right,” began Bud. “There’s a load of six giant wind machines in the port. They were being used on a movie set on Oahu and now they have to be in Collingwood by next Friday.” A pause.

“They’re going to be using them on some movie called Snowflakes.”

“Who’s in the movie?”

“Uhh…” Mark pictured Bud peering over the tops of his glasses at the piece of paper in front of him. “Shannon Tweed.”

“Shannon Tweed? The direct-to-video queen?”

“I guess,” said Bud, who obviously didn’t know who he was talking about. It could have been Captain Queeg for all he knew.

“Hey, maybe I’ll get to meet her.”

“Yeah,” answered Bud. “She’ll probably be signing for the load when you get there.”

Mark was silent for a moment. From the way he’d said that, maybe Bud knew who Shannon Tweed was after all. “Hey, you never know,” he said. “Low-budget movie. Maybe everyone pitches in.”

“Yeah, well maybe you should be worrying about getting the load instead of delivering it.”

“Why, what do you mean?”

“Don’t you read the papers while you’re out there?”

“Haven’t had time.”

“Well, you’ve got time now. Those wind machines are being held up along with everything else in the port while a bunch of owner/operators are protesting, shutting down the yard until they start getting an hourly rate for the time they spend in line waiting for a load.”

Bud gave Mark the details on the load, and after they said goodbye, Mark pulled out of the police lot and found a donut shop just down the street with a newspaper box out in front. He bought a coffee inside the shop and headed back to his truck. Once inside, he began flipping through Truck News, and it wasn’t long before he came across a feature story on the ongoing labor dispute.

Apparently it was just as Bud had said. The local owner/operators were tired of waiting up to three hours for a load that paid a flat rate. They were asking for close to $50 an hour, which would probably speed things up in the port some. And even if it didn’t, the operators wouldn’t mind waiting in line.

But while the dispute had been going on for a month, Mark was happy to learn that a vote was going to be taken on the port’s most recent offer tomorrow night. He hoped the operators got what they wanted.

And while the article clearly stated that this dispute had no affect on long haulers like himself – which meant he could probably get into the port and pick up his load if he really wanted – that would force him to go up against the operators who were out on strike. They were guys just like him, trying to make a decent living wage and he didn’t want to do anything – no matter how small – to hurt their fight.

Besides, if they accepted this latest offer, it would open the port Friday morning and he’d still be able to pick up the load with more than enough time to deliver it on schedule. In the meantime, he would have a day or two to get the clutch on “Mother Load” adjusted. He’d had a rebuilt one installed about 100,000 kilometres ago and, now that it was settled in, it could use a little adjustment.

He drove into Surrey to the Peterbilt dealership on 96th Ave. and spoke to a service rep there.

“Wouldn’t take too long to make the adjustment,” the rep said. “Half hour or so.”


“But I can’t get anybody on it until the middle of next week.”

“What do you mean?” asked Mark. “You guys always have two or three mechanics doing small jobs.”

The service rep nodded. “We usually do, but I’ve got one mechanic on his honeymoon and the other two have got trucks lined up around the lot because of the strike.”

“Oh,” Mark said, suddenly understanding the problem.

“With the strike going on, a lot of operators figured it was a pretty good time to get their rigs serviced… especially now, seeing as it looks like they’re going to vote to accept the latest offer. Everyone wants their truck ready for Friday and I can’t slip another one in before then. Some of these guys have already been waiting for days.” He shrugged. “Sorry. But there’s plenty of shops in the area that can handle an adjustment.”

“Yeah, maybe I’ll try one,” said Mark.

Mark headed back to his rig. As he started it up, he thought about letting the adjustment wait until he got back to his regular mechanic in Toronto, but it was such a minor thing now. If he let it go too long, who knows what it might cost him down the road.

He drove around the block looking for a place to bring Mother Load. He found plenty of service centers, but none that seemed to cater exclusively to full-sized trucks. If Mark was going to have anyone other than the dealer look at his rig, he at least wanted the mechanic to be familiar with Petes.

Just when he thought he’d try another part of the city, Mark found a site tucked in behind a warehouse. It had a fenced-in yard and there were plenty of Peterbilts, Freightliners and other assorted trucks around the lot.

The sign read Rick’s Rigs.

Mark sat on the road in front of the shop, considering what he should do. He hated the idea of taking his truck to a place he didn’t know, but his clutch needed some attention, now rather than later.

And besides, it was o
nly an adjustment. What could go wrong? n

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